Job Prospects Look Slightly Rosier for ’04 Grads

As Brown University seniors prepare for life beyond College Hill, some question whether they will have opportunities to land the jobs they want. Others remain optimistic in light of the recent economic upturn. But a struggling economy and heightened unemployment have limited job prospects. It has been a “very good year” for the fields of investment banking and consulting, two areas that have performed poorly in the past few years, according to Associate Director of Career Services Barbara Peoples. However, these industries are far from operating at peak levels, said Peter Howitt, a professor of economics with expertise in macroeconomics and economic growth. “I think that they will never be as popular as they were throughout the 1990s,” Howitt said. But after several years of decline and stagnation, Career Services reports an increase in recruiting activity that is likely due to the 7.2 percent third-quarter economic growth rate, Peoples said. Bain and Co., a consulting firm centered in Boston, increased recruiting by 30 percent in 2003 and expects an even bigger increase in 2004, Public Relations Coordinator Sandra Canela wrote in an e-mail. “We’re starting to see that, for many employers, their hiring is up compared to last year,” said Manager of Employer Relations Scott Lachapelle. “They’re finally starting to react to what it seems the rest of the economy has done.” “Things are starting to improve, and jobs seem to be picking up,” Howitt said. But Howitt acknowledged the “tough times” of the current national economic situation, adding that the economy continues to struggle in comparison with performance in the mid- to late-1990s. Scott Strand ’04, who recently received a job offer from Bain, said he believes the economic downturn now only affects certain fields, while others are able to grow and develop. “Some job markets are pretty stable, or even hiring more. Any group that calls for small groups of dedicated specialists tends to still be hiring,” Strand wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “That seems to be where the jobs are right now … it’s all about finding a niche.” Many seniors participate in a competitive recruiting process through Career Services, in which companies search the campus for future employees. A corporation will either post job openings through Brown or will actually visit the campus and conduct interviews through Career Services, a practice which is becoming more common. Companies that have visited Brown this year include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. These corporations often recruit strictly at “top-tier” universities or at schools with deep alumni connections, Lachapelle said. “I think with a lot of these firms, having an Ivy League degree helps immensely because they only recruit at their target schools,” said Herald account manager Eugene Cha ’04, who also received a job offer from Bain and Co. this year. “Brown’s probably worse off than a school like Harvard or Princeton, but it’s definitely better off than a majority of the schools that are out there.” Alumni connections have also led to increased recruiter activity. Both Strand and Cha said these connections were crucial in receiving interviews with corporations on campus. “We have a real strong alumni network and we are very grateful for everything that the alumni do with us,” Lachapelle said. But not everyone is finding success as the economy improves. Klara Chan ’04 said she believes Career Services over-emphasizes certain career paths. “I think they are very geared toward Fortune 500 companies and financial services companies,” she said, adding that because she has not yet limited her options she finds it difficult to plan for the future. “Right now, I’m not so happy,” Chan said when asked about her prospects. “I wish I had specified what I wanted to do and focused on it throughout my Brown career.”